52 Cookbooks: 52 new recipes in 2014

A year ago I read of a challenge to cook a new recipe from a different cookbook each week throughout the year. Having one or two cookbooks hanging around that I was sure I wasn't making the most of, it seemed a good challenge for me. I didn't know how many cookbooks I had, but it turns out that I have more than fifty two as at the end of the year and the challenge I still have quite a few that I haven't used yet.

A few of the cookbooks that didn't feature in #52Cookbooks

A few of the cookbooks that didn't feature in #52Cookbooks

Over the year I've cooked curries and cakes, bread and biscuits, vegetarian dishes, fish dishes and meat dishes. And in all of the dishes there was only one that failed - some of you may remember the polenta pizza (#34), it was truly awful but bless MOH was soldiering on, saying it wasn't too bad. But it was and it went straight into the green waste bin. But I guess one failure out of fifty two wasn't so bad. 

Actually I only used fifty one cookbooks as I missed a week in September while we were in Cornwall. But I cooked two new recipes from the same book a week or so later and decided that as both recipes were new and paired together in the book it was fine, as by this time the challenge had become my own so I felt able to bend the rules just a bit. 

Other highlights from the year were when Gok Wan retweeted my attempt at his Easy beef in tomato sauce (#36) and the views of that post and my Twitter feed went a bit barmy for a while; and there's been some lovely and encouraging tweets from Nigel Slater too. I fell out with Rick Stein too when I cooked his Cod in red wine sauce (#44) not that he ever knew, and I decided next time I eat that recipe he can cook it, as he owes me! 

I was surprised by how easy cookies are to make (although I haven't made them since - I really should) and at how much nicer than shop bought ones they were. They were incredibly more-ish too, which is a definite downside. I was also surprised looking back at how few bread recipes I chose - I love to make (and eat) bread and like the cookies it has a habit of disappearing... 

So overall it's been a great experience and it's taught me that those cookbooks I have are really worth looking at - they've got some great recipes in them! I know that's a shocking revelation, hey?! And as for those books I haven't used yet, well I'll carry on cooking from them, but the #52 cookbooks challenge is over.  I've got a new challenge in mind though, one that makes use of my stash of cookery magazines which date back to November 2002. I plan to use an old magazine a month and revisit its recipes, whether they're ones I've cooked before or not. I plan to start with January 2003's Good Food magazine, and will share a post later in the month to let you know how I got on. 

Finally, this wouldn't be much of a review post without links to the 52 recipes, so here they are:

1.  Sweet & sour duck 

2.  Lamb Dopiaza 

3.  Cauliflower & broccoli cheese 

4.  Pheasant, bacon & prunes 

5.  Panini Lunghi al Pepe Nero

6.  Cheese & sun-dried tomato scones 

7.  Fish & artichoke pilaf

8.  Gingerbread  

9.  Chilli con sausage  

10. Choc chip cookies 

11. Veal & mushroom pie

12. Chocolate & cranberry brownies  

13. Lemon surprise pudding 

14. Thai fish curry with mango 

15. Hot cross buns

16. Slow-cooked shoulder of lamb

17. Coffee & walnut layer cake 

18. Ho Fan beef noodles 

19. Yogurt-marinated chicken & spiced green lentils 

20. Cod Saltimbocca 

21. Paella de esparragos y queso manchego 

22. Yogurt & blueberry ice cream

23. White bean & artichoke salad 

24. Leon Moroccan meatballs 

25. Frosted marmalade cake

26. French onion tart

27. Pasta with chicken, sage and onion butter 

28. Salted chocolate lime mousse

29. Botham burgers

30. Pineapple chicken skewers

31. Summer chickpea salad 

32. Grilled mushroom risotto  

33. Coq au Riesling

34. Polenta pizza fail! 

35. Carrot cake

36. Beef in easy tomato sauce 

37. Apple & Walnut crumble

38. Spiced Blackberry jam

39. Chard gratin

40. Sardine 'rillettes' with parsley & lemon

41. Sopa de Castañas 

42. Chicken liver pâté 

43. A simple stew of onions, beef & beer

44. Cod in red wine sauce 

45. Quince & ginger chutney

46 & 47.  Roast pork belly with broccoli, red onions & capers

48. Celeriac & bacon soup

49. Beef stock 

50: Venison pie

51.  Almond Kringle wreath

52: Onion & olive bread

52 Cookbooks 52: Onion & olive bread

Number 52, of 52. Woohoo! Well I got there, I've cooked fifty two new recipes in 2014 and used cookbooks that previously just sat on the shelf gathering dust. I've had fun rediscovering those books too, but more on that another time. First though I have to share the last one of this challenge...

This week I've chosen a niche cookbook, one for cooking in cast iron bakeware it's titled "the cast iron way to cook" and is by Sue Cutts - the more eagle eyed among you will know that Cutts is my married name, but this lady isn't a relation. I do have Le Creuset cookware and I think I've used the book maybe once before, but I really can't remember. So it seemed a fitting way to end this challenge.


What's more I've chosen a bread recipe too, I'm partial to an odd loaf or two and make a sourdough loaf usually at least twice a week. This is a yeast based white loaf though flavoured with onion and olives. The recipe starts with chopping an onion and adding some olive oil before blasting it in the microwave - this is my kind of book! I wouldn't have thought to soften onion this way, but it worked. 


I added the onion and chopped olives to the flour, salt, cracked pepper and yeast before adding warm water, cold milk and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Once the dough was together the recipe said to knead the bread for 1-2 minutes, which really didn't seem that long, most bread recipes suggest at least ten minutes. I decided to knead it a bit longer until some of its cellulite-look had gone. Then it was time to shape the loaf and add it to the tin - the recipe is for a Le Creuset terrine dish but I used a non-stick loaf tin instead. 


I brushed the top of the loaf with some olive oil and slashed it on the top, covered it with cling film (usually I use a shower cap for this, but that was already employed on sourdough duties) and left it for an hour and a half to rise.  When I next looked at the loaf it had risen well and was ready for cooking. 


It went into a hot oven for about forty minutes and came out looking like this:


The verdict

- it was easy to make, but used a lot of flour (750g)

- softening the onions in the microwave worked well and I'd do that again. The recipe said black olives but I used green spicy olives as we had some left from Christmas. We had some black olives left too but these still had the stones in, whereas the green ones didn't.  

- kneading bread is very therapeutic so I didn't mind an extra bit of kneading (I don't knead my sourdough at all so it made a nice change) 

- my yeast is a tad on the old side but thankfully it's still working. I was surprised by just how much the loaf rose. If I'm not sure about my yeast I tend to add it to the water before adding it to the flour, that way if it's not going to bubble I haven't wasted my flour. Also half a teaspoon of sugar encourages yeast to do its thing too...

- I'd make it again, especially for a treat, a picnic or dinner with friends. It'd go nicely with cheese and cold meats, less so with jam for breakfast though I think! 


So that's the end of the 52 Cookbooks challenge, I plan to look back over the recipes and the challenge so join me for that during the week, and to find out what's next!

52 Cookbooks 51: Almond Kringle wreath

I hope you've had a fab Christmas - I have. Of course I've eaten too much and have had a great time doing so with lots of family too. I took a planned break from the blog, which was just as well as Christmas was pretty full on and I'm not sure where I would have found time to write anything. But there's plenty to tell you starting with the penultimate #52Cookbooks and this week it's an edible wreath. Yes another wreath!  

I'm a big fan of Christmas cake (well any cake actually) but with both my mum and MIL excelling at Christmas cakes, and MOH making his trademark Christmas puddings, there's really no need for me to bake anything traditionally Christmas cake-wise so I often choose something more Stollen-ish. Which I know is traditional too, but not so much in my family but I mean, why wouldn't you maximise your marzipan consumption at this time of year?

I'd got it into my head that I'd bake a kind of enriched dough, with fruit and marzipan shaped into a ring and slashed so some of the filling was exposed. I'd cooked one before from a recipe in a Good Food magazine, but could I find that recipe anywhere? Nope, despite having every Good Food magazine since about November 2002... I really need to find a way of knowing what's in which magazine easily! 

So defeated - mainly because I didn't have the luxury of time to sit and peruse the magazines as there were sprouts that needed peeling, and many more jobs to do - I turned to my cookbooks looking for inspiration. I saw this Scandilicious book by Signe Johansen which is a beautiful book and one I've been meaning to pick up and cook from for a while and immediately spotted this Almond Kringle Wreath. So choice made - it was easy in the end!


I wasn't familiar with Kringle until now, but the recipe introduction explains Kringle originates from an old Norse word meaning ring or circle and it's a traditional treat found all over Scandinavia. It's traditional to shape the Kringle into a pretzel shape but is easier to shape into a wreath. Phew!

It was quite a wet dough, which worried me - I regularly make sourdough bread but this was way wetter than that so I added a touch more flour to the scalded milk, butter, beaten egg, flour and dried yeast. I thought I had some ground cardamom in the cupboard but could only find pods, so added some ground caraway and mixed spice instead. 


The recipe says to mix this until it looks, well doughy! Then it's left for 30 minutes in a warm place - for me that's on top of the toaster under one of the under-cupboard lights. It works, don't knock it!

While it's doing its thing I made the marzipan "butter" in the food processor.  That's simply whizzing marzipan, butter, ground almonds and an egg together, then adding a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar to taste. I've not done anything like this with marzipan before - usually it goes onto the outside of a cake or straight into my mouth... 

Back to the dough and the recipe said to roll it out to a rectangle of 60 x 15cms, which seemed very precise. You'll not be surprised to discover I didn't measure mine...


Then I spread the marzipan butter on top of it, sprinkled the raisins which had soaked in hot water until now and started to roll it up...


Mission accomplished. Although the worktop looked a tad messy at the end. 


My wreath was fairly large and sadly not uniform. It had risen well and I had more dough than I could make a ring from, so I cut the "spare" dough into six pieces and put them into a bun tin and left them to prove again for half an hour. 


I glazed them with beaten egg, sprinkled over some sliced almonds and some Demerara sugar and baked in a warm oven for forty minutes until it was golden, remembering to check the smaller pieces before that!


The verdict:

- the dough was very wet to start with, I don't know if I needed to add more flour or not but I'm glad I did!

- there was no kneading needed, which was unexpected but welcomed! 

- the marzipan butter turned out well; I think you could add other dried fruit instead of the raisins, apricots or glacé cherries would work well.  

- I'd make it again, and next time I'd pay more attention, and perhaps even measure it! I'd definitely try to ensure it didn't bulge!  I'd make it slightly smaller too, as while it looks good in my cake stand it didn't fit in my usual cake tin. And of course it would only fit into the plastic container I'd used to store my peeled spuds for Christmas dinner. Typical, hey?

- it tasted good and was a good end to our Christmas Eve dinner.